Updated: Dec 12, 2019
There are so many different kinds of milk to choose from. You have milks from all the nuts- like almond and coconut. Then you have milk from the goats and the cows. And I'm sure milk from somewhere else that I'm forgetting. Within those topics you then have skimmed, semi-skimmed, whole, and so on. There is a whole slew of choices when it comes to your dairy products.
Due to the demand for milk products, the farmers goal is to produce as much milk as possible. The pressure for cows to produce more and more milk is ever present. It's a supply and demand process. Due to the sheer amount of milk the cow is producing, it leaves them prone to certain diseases or pathologies, of which one is hypocalcaemia. Milk Fever is another name for this disease commonly used by farmers.
Hypocalcaemia can be broken down into two parts- 'hypo' means low and 'calcemaia' is calcium levels. So in basic terms, the cow is taking her calcium stores and putting into the milk we know and love. You have probably heard someone say "drink your milk so you will grow", turns out they were right all along. Of course that isn't all calcium does, which is why when the cow's levels drop so does she. Within the veterinary community, "downer cow" is a common phrase used to describe hypocalcaemia.
What is Calcium used for in the body?
With the help of vitamin D, it helps to build your bones and muscles. You need this for the contraction of your muscles all over your body, including your heart. So when cows loose precious calcium, they become weak and lay/fall down. The common presentation of a cow with milk fever is seen below. The biggest concern is the need for calcium to help with heart contraction to bring blood around the body. So when a farmer calls about their downer cow, you need to head out right away.
What is the treatment for Milk fever?
You want to replace the loss of calcium in the body and provide some energy. This is commonly done with IV calcium and dextrose. You need to be careful when giving the IV fluids that they don't go too fast, as you don't want to shock the system. Depending on the cow and how severe her calcium levels are, she may start to stand up before you are finished with the fluids. This is a good sign. You would continue to supplement the calcium over the next few days and make the farmer aware of some nutritional changes he could make to help prevent this occurring in the future. Even with the best of planning, some cows are just prone to this disease even if given the best care possible. Even though this is more common among diary herds, good farmers will care for their livestock to avoid this ever happening, and if it does they are well cared for.
So next time you are taking a drink of your milk, take a second and think of the lovely cows (or nuts) that are providing the resource for you and say a little thank you for all they do to produce it.
Thanks to the following websites for the photos